Rollout: Netreo's OmniCenter OnDemand

This network management solution takes the burden of maintaining an enterprise management solution off your IT organization's back, but it's marred by a high price and limited features.

January 17, 2007

6 Min Read
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Netreo'S Omnicenter Ondemand takes the burden of maintaining an enterprise management solution off your IT organization's back. However, the network management software-as-a-service concept has a high price and some limited features.

With the OmniCenter network-management appliance at its core, Netreo's SaaS offers fault, performance and configuration management, and provides visibility into any IP network, system or application resource using SNMP. This includes real-time alerts, long-term trending, as well as diagnostic and forensics reporting--regardless of the specific vendors in your environment.

Netreo offers Basic and Pro versions. Users with a few hundred devices will find the service more cost-effective than those with just a few dozen devices. Starting at $25 per device per month for 10 devices, the Basic version provides most of the core functionality a small IT shop needs. Upgrading to the Pro version--which starts at $75 per device per month--adds WMI (Windows Management Instrumentation) support, letting IT administrators leverage the management data available in a Windows application without adding agents or writing custom scripts. OnDemand Pro also provides network device configuration, port scanning and several other capabilities. However, the current version cannot collect NetFlow/sFlow data from IP network traffic.

Network Management ComparisonClick to enlarge in another window

With 100 devices, the Pro per-device cost falls to $12.50, with per-device cost improving as the number of devices increases. That's still a hefty price to pay for convenience. By comparison, a manager who instead implements Ipswitch's WhatsUp Professional Premium for 200 devices will pay $3,595 to buy the software. With OnDemand Pro, managing the same 200 devices would cost $1,550 per month ($18,600 per year). For many users, the ROI will not make sense given WhatsUp's features, such as SNMP trap receipt, processing syslog messages, and more customization than is possible in a SaaS model.

Netreo isn't alone in the SaaS field. Klir Technologies offers a service with a more visual Ajax interface and a slightly higher per-device cost. Netreo also has competition from LPI Level Platform, N-able and Silverback. These established providers offer more features, continue to lower pricing and can easily extend their products beyond their current markets.


Our test environment included several dozen Windows, Linux and Unix applications, plus a core Cisco network infrastructure. Unlike CRM SaaS products, the OnDemand service requires a Windows or Linux machine to run as a VM (virtual machine) for the OmniCenter client app.Once OmniCenter is configured, you access the service through a Web browser with a unique URL. A six-step setup wizard then begins the data-collection process. You can set up logical sites to group your data and notification rules to alert you to problems. Netreo's autodiscovery found all devices in our lab and pulled some description information from the equipment.

After configuring our IP address and the secure VPN tunnel that linked us to Netreo's server, we simulated a power outage. Restarting the VM caused the OmniCenter configuration to be lost and created gaps in the data we collected. Though it's easy enough to reconfigure OmniCenter, stability of the VPN tunnel and VM are critical to ensure data continuity. Netreo acknowledged the problem, but said using DHCP and leaving the VM running at all times should mitigate this issue.

With the network managed, we began starting and stopping components. OmniCenter detected unavailable devices and we received e-mail alerts 15 to 20 minutes after the outages occurred. Through the Tactical Overview window, we could examine overall status, CPU, memory, disk, errors, bandwidth and latency. We also could run customized reports on alerts, performance graphs and uptime for all devices--sufficient data for most organizations' fault- and performance-management trending.


Netreo took a no-nonsense approach to its GUI, an HTML interface for basic event data, graphs and reports. Rather than using Ajax or JSP (JavaServer Page), Netreo kept the interface lightweight and focused on the back-end notification engine. While there is no topology map, you can set up device relationships for root cause and suppression of the alerting. Netreo also provides an executive dashboard to view the status of all your events and sites--useful if you want a management portal to view the overall health of specific sites or device classes.Like many SaaS solutions, e-mail provides the only integration into your ticketing or service-desk application. If you need something more sophisticated, consider bringing the OmniCenter appliance in-house or use a conventional network-management product. Also, Netreo does not allow syslog messages or SNMP trap receipt because of the potential volume of data that could be produced over the Internet connection.

Like other software-based offerings, OmniCenter reports on bandwidth, latency and errors. All data can be exported to Excel, and you can create PDF-based reports. OmniCenter also has a wizard that lets you create views based on SLA violations.

For security monitoring, OmniCenter uses Nmap, the popular open-source tool, for port scanning. You can scan passively or aggressively for security issues. OmniCenter found all of our test network's open ports on the servers. Port scanning runs in the foreground of the Web browser for each server, averaging about 30 seconds. You must wait until the scan is complete before working on any other tasks within the browser. This could take some time in a larger environment. In a non-SaaS environment, running Nmap natively can scan an entire class-C address range in several minutes and is much more efficient.

Michael Biddick is VP of solutions for Windward Consulting Group, a systems integration firm that helps organizations improve operational efficiency. Write to him at [email protected].

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